What remains of the North American avant-garde of the 1960s and ‘70s? Certainly many more films than filmmakers, but a paper trail as well. Housed in museums, university libraries, film archives, and personal collections across the United States and Canada, a decentralized and ever-expanding set of documents and ephemera is shaping and informing numerous research-based projects in curation, academic scholarship, and film restoration. And yet, in contrast to this contemporary trend, the collected papers of Michael Snow at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto have yet to be explored in depth. A notable exception is Elizabeth Legge's monograph on Snow's Wavelength (1967), which cites some of the notes he kept during the film's conceptualization and production.2 Because the analysis of those notes was not one of Legge's primary objectives, however, her book reproduces only three of the pages in Snow's Wavelength file.
The occasion of Snow's recent passing will doubtless be met by various forms of retrospection, and this small contribution to that extended moment of reflection makes available in print a greater number of the Wavelength files than have previously been published. They represent a rare instance of a canonical avant-garde film's being accompanied by a significant corpus of scribblings, illustrations, and diagrams. This selection, comprising twenty-four pages taken from the filmmaker's unbound notes, introduces some of the themes and questions that Snow was putting to paper during the project's year of gestation. Below, I offer a few remarks on those pages. They are admittedly somewhat arbitrary, but they are intended to bring to light some of the archive's lesser-known revelations.